Windmill Challenge

Don Quijote attacking the windmills (that he thinks are monsters) is used as a metaphor for something noble and brave for an individual. I often hear that being an agile advocate inside large organization can be something like this -maybe so. But on the other hand I have the privilege to work with brilliant people and when working together the windmills actually look pretty small. They are there, no doubt about it, but the initial challenge feels much smaller. There cannot be a situation when one is right and everyone else is wrong. This is something we all can leverage and feel more safe -we are definetly not alone!

What then can be seen as windmills inside a large corporation? I just found a good writing from Craig Larman, Bas Vodde and Tom Arbogast This primer summarizes pretty well the real monsters inside traditional organization: like when your business is based on 10 years contracts with penalties, there is not much that lean and agile can help you with. If your value proposition is already contracted (with penalties) what there is left to iterate?

However agile adoption tends to spread. It takes over the next silo and starts to make changes in the peoples heads. This will take time, but if we just allow it to happen, it will make our life much easier. And please remember: There is nothing to lose but a lot to gain.

About Henri Kivioja

I believe in teams, personal development, humanity and good life.
This entry was posted in Agile Thinking, All, Change, Leadership, Lean, Transformation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Windmill Challenge

  1. Ismo Paukamainen says:

    Nice writing Henri.
    I’m also familiar with this phenomenon, but maybe not in the ways you explained it.

    Sometimes I feel like being, not Don Quijote, but a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, knowing how wrong Don Quijote was in believing windmills are monsters. Who is seeing monsters?
    I have noticed that in many cases agile advocates are modern Don Quijotes.
    They are seeing monsters. Everything what has been done or used earlier seems to be something that should automatically be avoided, or attacked, they are ‘windmills’ – monsters to modern Don Quijotes.

    After saying this, it is easy to respond: ‘Dear old Sancho, you’re just resitant to change’. But it is not as simple as that. I have nothing against change (..well at least after good reasoning), but forgetting everything the organization has learned during years just because someone is seeing monsters there, might not be very wise.

    Open discussion between modern Don Quijotes and Sancho Panzas is the way to get the most out of Agile methodology.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Sancho Panza

    • Henri Kivioja says:

      Hi Ismo,

      You are of course correct when reminding that all of our past should not be forgotten. This is true when considering how we work around the flow. My main concern is actually somewhere else: how companies are lead and managed. Agile says not too much on this and there are no tools and methods in this area.

      Many leaders have MBA or similar and unfortunatelly business schools base their teachings on traditional thinking. Short term gains, cost obsession and other Tayloristic approaches will only bring us new Nokias or NSNs. New revolutionary thinking must be applied on how organizations and people are and should be. In this area I would say that we must forget everything we have had and start from pretty clean table.


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